Outside view of a modern timber tree house.

REAL HOME: Timber tree house


From an uninhabitable dwelling to an award-winning abode, this timber home design home revels in the natural beauty and versatility of wood.

Outside view of a modern timber tree house.

The living area of a modern timber tree house.

The bedroom in the modern timber tree house.

Kitchen bench in a modern timber tree house. Kitchen in the modern timber tree house.

A kitchen with a blue wall in a modern timber tree house. Bathroom in a modern timber tree house.

Timber draw in a modern timber tree house. A beautiful modern timber tree house with a stunning outside view.

A modern timber tree house.


The modern timber tree house before it was remodeled.

Cantilevered above the township of Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula and enjoying expansive vistas over rolling hills and endless ocean, this breathtaking build, aptly titled the Red Hill house, represents an incredible take on modern design and material manipulation.

Designed by architect and managing director of Dankor Architecture, Danny Korman, the renovation was approached in a unique manner where Danny saw the project not as a home but an interactive space.

“Each room espoused an emotion and every physical interaction was considered,” he says. “First, we would ask ‘what is the optimal result?’ and only after this had been definitively resolved, would we even begin to consider a construction methodology.”

Throwing himself into the design process and becoming somewhat obsessed by the finer details, Danny quit his job at the firm where he was practicing to focus all of his energy into crafting this masterpiece.

“The design was a cumulative process; it was not driven by one single inspiration, but by layers of discussion where each conversation, resolution and dissolution was stacked one atop the other, culminating in the final conception.”

And the finished product is nothing less than extraordinary, with Danny winning armfuls of awards for the intricate plan including Best Renovation and Most Innovative use of Timber at the 2012 Building Design Awards, Best Residential Fit Out at the 2012 Australian Timber Design Awards and a special commendation at the 2012 Master Builder Awards in the Best Renovation/Addition category.

However, the term renovation is used loosely, with words such as “renewal”, “refurbished” and “completely overhauled” springing to mind as the original house on the hill was taken back to its bones in order to reinvigorate the structural integrity.

“Before renovations commenced, the existing house was uninhabitable, clad in asbestos and ignored the significant landscape views,” Danny says.

But rather than demolish the dwelling, which was the obvious choice, the client chose to renovate.

The front maintains its original form, while the rear has undergone a contemporary transformation. A corrugated iron shed with a plywood lined ceiling was converted for the client to reside in with open-plan kitchen, bathroom, laundry and sleeping space – they loved the aesthetic of the ply so much that this became central to the brief for the proposed house.

The mandate encompassed four main objectives – link the renovated shed, extend and reconfigure the dwelling, orientate the house toward the predominant views and incorporate plywood into the design.

Works included asbestos removal, addition of new internal and external walls, connecting a new steel frame to the existing house and constructing decking to link the shed and proposed dwelling. Original rafters, footings and select internal walls were retained.

The configuration of the floor plan was inverted to create a large open-plan living zone at the rear to maximise the views framed by commercial sliding doors and a boxed eave overhang, lined with timber of course. The walls between the three internal bedrooms were moved around to add space and an innate connection with the outdoors.

Each of the bedrooms now opens on to an external timber hall, which envelopes the home, and the three-bedroom, one-bathroom layout has been boosted to an internal three-bedroom, three-bathroom design – each sleeping space with a private ensuite – plus the extra guest accommodation in the original shed.

Sixty tonnes of steel, connected to foundations 2.5m deep, was required to frame the new extension.

“Three dimensional computer modelling was used to assist the builder to visualise the complex steel connections but, given the intricacy of the engineering, the steel fabricator took an extraordinary and labour-intensive precaution by building the entire frame within the fabrication warehouse,” Danny explains. “Then once all the connections were checked, the steel was disassembled, transported to site and reassembled.”

Labour was the biggest cost in the $800,000 project. “To create intricate and custom details requires a great deal of time and effort; fortunately, the client appreciated this and outlaid the costs necessary to create the envisaged design,” Danny says.

Internally, Hoop Pine plywood panels line the timber frame offset with 5mm shadowline cornices, which run continuously along the walls and ceilings.

“Timber has been used in an innovative and articulate manner throughout the project,” Danny says, adding that “a variety of species and engineered products have been incorporated, creating a dwelling with a unique and distinct visual appeal.”

Plywood edging was exposed in every corner of the home to highlight the material’s intrinsic pattern. Black Nero veneered kitchen joinery contrasts the predominantly blond timber hues and handle-free cupboards with exposed ply grab edges promote a tactile engagement with the plywood.

“Window reveals, jambs and skirting – all made from ply – have exposed edgings producing a homogeneous and consistently detailed dwelling. An array of interlocking plywood waves beneath the kitchen’s stone benchtop creates an organic feature of the plywood as timber wine boxes suspended from the ceiling have been recycled into pendant lights.

“Interior pivot-hung doors mimic plywood panels created by laminating ply strips to door panel edges and veneering Hoop Pine to the faces,” Danny explains.

“White Cypress battens screen the dwelling from the road, creating a choreographed entry and Spotted Gum decking links the new renovation to the existing shed and forms a series of seats folding to the ground.”

“Rough textured plywood cladding, finished in black paint, provides a visual counterpoint to the Messmate lined eaves.”

A major issue during construction was an existing concrete water tank preventing placement of steel beams. This was resolved by draining the water tank, cutting the 300mm concrete walls and transforming the empty space into a wine cellar.

“There is a trap door on the deck that opens up with a ladder leading down to the cellar. Considering the confined space, we had to take precautions such as ensuring that lights and ventilation automatically switch on upon entry.”

Danny says some of the largest concerns related to the smallest of elements; elegantly stopping the pivot door was one such example.

“Originally, a metal stopper was considered, but it was deemed ungainly, floor stoppers were inappropriate and latches clumsy – we required something elegant and simple. Finally, a plywood dowel fixed to the top of the frame was suggested and this fitted all criteria: simple, unobtrusive and elegant.”

Every millimetre of the house was pored over, worked and reworked including the extreme sustainable components.

“All internal and external walls and ceilings are heavily insulated and extremely efficient and hydronic heating is used throughout the house, powered by gas.

Solar panels on the roof supply electricity and return power to the grid when not in use. Water is stored in tanks below the house and sewerage is treated in an underground septic tank, filtered and then evaporated in trenches beneath the garden.

“Large north facing windows allow winter light to penetrate into the living space and wide eave overhangs prohibit harsh summer sun overheating the dwelling. Extensive double glazing and minimal openings facing west also reduce heat loads,” Danny says.

Modest about his achievements within this design alone, Danny says the living room is his favourite part of the home.

“The living room is an incredible space, surrounded by 2.7m high windows and a vista of limitless ocean – but I face the walls,” he laughs. “When I see the meticulous shadow lines running perfectly from panel to panel and meeting with effortless precision at four point junctions, I can’t help but smile. The work is incredibly accurate and fantastically executed.”

Describing the overall design simply as “warm modernism” or a “tranquil refuge”, whichever way you look at it, this will be a home celebrated for years to come not only by the owners but by all in the design fraternity.


This project was designed by:

Dankor Architecture

9/120 Cambridge Street, Collingwood VIC 3066

03 9417 0386



This project was built by:

Simon Coleman of S.J. Coleman Pty Ltd trading as ECoast

0418 350 493



Barry Wilson 

0431 046 006



Open-plan living space: Blackbutt 19mm, finished with Bona ‘Traffic’

Bedroom: Victoria Wool Elegance Carpet

Outdoor: Mitre 10 Spotted Gum 96x19mm



Internal: B-B 9mm Hoop Pine veneer plywood panels offset with 5mm shadow line finished with Intergrain ‘UltraClear’

Outdoor walls: Carter Holt Harvey Shadowclad ‘Texture 2000’ painted with Wattyl ‘Night Sky’



Benchtop: Caesarstone Pure White 1141

Splashback: Seraphic glass 6mm Starfire Toughened Glass Dulux ‘Silk White’

Cabinetry: Amerind 17mm EEP Ply with Nero Veneer



Cabinetry: Amerind 17mm EEP Ply with Nero Veneer

Tiles (walls and floor): Aura Bianco 600x300mm, Black Machine hammered marble 400x400mm, Avalanch Gloss Round Mosaic

Shower/bath: Re-enamelled bath from the existing house and reused



Lumex NovaLED



ErgoFocus with custom-designed mild steel hearth



Glass: Architectural Window Systems Single and double-glazed toughened glass

Frames: Architectural Window Systems CentreGlaze, Magnum and SlideMaster



Roof: 700 Klip-Lok and BHP Colorbond ‘Monument’

Decking: Spotted Gum 86x19mm

Screening: White Cypress 40x40mm

By Katie Lee
Photography by Vincent Long
From Renovate magazine Vol. 9 No. 1